SPORTS >> Falcons hit Red Devils in heart
It was a thing of beauty for North Pulaski, a monster for Jacksonville.
North Pulaski survived a late push from Jacksonville, the defending 6A state champion, to take a 60-48, non-conference victory at the Devils Den on Friday night.
Jacksonville cut a 10-point, third-quarter deficit to 46-41 when Troy Green hit a three-pointer with 3:31 left in the game. But North Pulaski, of the 5A, took charge of the rebounding from that point and outscored Jacksonville 14-7 down the stretch.
“Early in the game we were going to the hole and not finishing,” North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper said. “I talked to them a lot in the second half about going to the hole and being strong with the ball and being powerful. Defensively we had a few lapses and so we had to get that corrected.”
Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner saw almost the opposite in his team. After watching his team give up six offensive rebounds in the clutch, with some balls taken right out of his players’ hands, Joyner was steaming over what he felt was as a lack of heart.
“I’m not an open-heart surgeon,” Joyner said. “I’m not coach Frankenstein. I can’t breathe life into them. They’ve got to come with it.”
Aaron Cooper got a steal and a layup during North Pulaski’s game-closing surge, and Kyron Ware drove the baseline for a resounding dunk that brought fans on both sides to their feet.
Cooper answered a Green layup with a basket to make it 54-43, then the Falcons’ I.J. Ready got a rebound leading to Bryan Colson’s bank shot that made it 56-43.
Green hit a three-pointer for the Red Devils, but Cooper got a free throw with 1:01 left and a reverse layup with 32 seconds to go.
Jacksonville’s Deshone McClure scored the final points when he followed up a miss by Raheem Appleby.
“That was one thing we concentrated on,” Cooper said of the rebounding. “When we played Conway the other night we lost in a double-overtime game and we got killed on the glass. They did a good job of really boxing out and being tough around the basket so it took a while to chip away at them.”
Aaron Cooper led all scorers with 18 points and Colson had 14.
“Bryan Colson played the game of his career,” Raymond Cooper said. “We’ve been seeing that kind of potential coming but it just has never materialized. And him stepping up tonight really was big. Kyron Ware came up big in the second quarter. I was telling him ‘You’ve got to go in there and finish strong and stop looking for contact.’
“You saw the dunk that he had and he’s capable of doing that a lot more so I’m hoping that will open his eyes.”
Green led Jacksonville with 15 points and Appleby contributed 14.
“Scoring is the easy part,” said Joyner, bemoaning the lack of rebounding. “If everybody is boxing their man out, the ball can fall on the floor.”
Jacksonville had one lead, 11-10, when Green made an inside shot for the first points of the second quarter. But Shyheim Barron made a driving layup to start a 14-5 run that closed out the half.
Marvin Davis made a backdoor layup during the rally, Ware hit a free throw, Barron made a scoop layup, Alonte Mitchell added two free throws, Cooper scored in transition and closed out the run with a three-pointer.
Jacksonville got its points when Green made a three-pointer with 5:09 left in the half and Appleby hit a layup with 1:44 to go.
The victory gave North Pulaski a sweep of the regular-season series after the Falcons beat the Red Devils 65-55 on Nov. 23.
To make things even more cozy between the two programs, Joyner previously coached at North Pulaski before moving to Jacksonville.
Raymond Cooper said Jacksonville’s late push and his team’s answer illustrated the hard-fought nature of the cross-town series.
“I’ve got four brothers,” Cooper said. “When they all come home — we’re old now — but when they were younger we’d come home and we’d play and those were some of the most physical and tough battles that I was in. And I kind of equate that to this.
“We know each other, we know all their moves. They know everything that we do.”